origin of ‘Dutch treat’ and ‘to go Dutch’ (2023)

Of American-English origin, the phrase to go Dutch means to have every participant pay for his or her own expenses, also to share expenses equally.

I have discovered that to go Dutch is in fact a shortening of to go Dutch treat, which itself arose from the noun Dutch treat, also of American-English origin, denoting a meal, outing, entertainment, at which each participant pays for his or her share of the expenses.

The earliest occurrences of Dutch treat that I have found date from June 1873; the origin of this noun was explained in an article titled Beer, Letter from Vienna to the Baltimore American, published on Friday 20th in The Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Illinois)—this article shows that in Dutch treat, the adjective Dutchis used in the sense of German [cf. origin of ‘double Dutch’ and ‘High Dutch’ (‘gibberish’) andfootnote 1]:

(Video) Go Dutch | Dutch Treat | Meaning and Usage | English Idioms

The Germans in the United States, and those Americans who affect a fondness for lager-beer, don’t drink it as it is drank in Germany. They rush into a restaurant and gulp down two or three glasses and move on. Here a German never thinks of finishing his glass of beer in less than ten minutes, and to drink it without eating something at the same time, even if it is only a crust of brown bread. In fact, a German in the Fatherland is constitutionally opposed to doing anything in a hurry, and especially to drinking beer with “rapid speed.” The consequence is that we do not see men here with great, huge paunches, as at home, capable of swallowing a keg of beer after supper. They seldom treat one another, but sit down to the tables, and although they drink together, each man pays for what he consumes, whether it be beer or food. This of itself is a great preventive of excess, as, if half a dozen or a dozen were to sit down to drink, as with us, each must treat in turn, and thus six or a dozen glasses to be guzzled, whether they want it or not. If our temperance friends could institute what is called the “Dutch treat” into our saloons, each man paying his own reckoning, it would be a long step toward reform in drinking to excess. In short, beer in Germany is a part of each man’s food. He takes it as a sustenance, and not as a stimulant.

(In Dutch treat, therefore, the adjective Dutch is not used in the derogatory manner in which it is used in Dutch courageand in Dutch uncle, nor does it refer specifically to the Netherlands, as it does in Dutch auction.)

The noun Dutch treat gave rise to the phrase to go Dutch treat. The earliest occurrence that I have found is from the column The Talk of New York, in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle (Brooklyn, New York) of Sunday 13th November 1887:

(Video) To go Dutch! #english #learnenglish #vocabulary #englishteacher #ielts #grammar

There’s a curious feature developing itself here among the female theater goers—their independence of the other sex. […] There is a great deal of this sort of thing at the opera, too, particularly in the upper galleries. Poor, music loving girls often haven’t any wealthy male relatives or friends to take them and are able on a pinch to pay for their own seats and no more. Some friend of theirs is in the same fix and they go “Dutch treat” and are never annoyed in any way, though they make the journey back and forth in the horse cars.

The earliest instance of the shortened phrase to go Dutch, used in its current sense [see footnote 2], that I have found is from Does Office Chumming Pay?, by Anna S. Richardson, published in the magazine supplement, “A Section Devoted Entirely to Women’s Interests”, of The Inter Ocean (Chicago, Illinois) of Sunday 2nd June 1907:

[The chummy girl] wants to be with the men all the time. When they do not invite her to lunch individually she is quite willing to go “Dutch”—that is, paying her share of the check and sitting at the same table with three or four of the boys.

(Video) Learn / Teach English Idioms: Let's go Dutch


1-: In its first edition (Oxford, 1897), A New English Dictionary, as the Oxford English Dictionary was known, explained the sense evolution of the adjective Dutch:

In Germany, the adjective was used (in the 9th century) as a rendering of Latin ‘vulgaris’, to distinguish the ‘vulgar tongue’ from the Latin of the church and the learned; hence it gradually came to be the current denomination of the vernacular, applicable alike to any particular dialect, and generically to German as a whole. From the language, it was naturally extended to those who spoke it (compare ‘English’), and thus grew to be an ethnic or national adjective; whence also, in the 12th or 13th century, arose the name of the country, ‘Diutisklant’, now ‘Deutschland’, = ‘Germany’.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, ‘Dutch’ was used in England in the general sense in which we now use ‘German’, and in this sense it included the language and people of the Netherlands as part of the ‘Low Dutch’ or Low German domain. After the United Provinces became an independent state, using the ‘Nederduytsch’ or Low German of Holland as the national language, the term ‘Dutch’ was gradually restricted in England to the Netherlanders, as being the particular division of the ‘Dutch’ or Germans with whom the English came in contact in the 17th century; while in Holland itself ‘duitsch’, and in Germany ‘deutsch’, are, in their ordinary use, restricted to the language and dialects of the German Empire and of adjacent regions, exclusive of the Netherlands and Friesland; though in a wider sense ‘deutsch’ includes these also, and may even be used as widely as ‘Germanic’ or ‘Teutonic’. Thus the English use of ‘Dutch’ has diverged from the German and Netherlandish use since 1600.

(Video) Why is it Called "Going Dutch" When You Pay for Yourself?

The following passage from The Origin of the English Nation, by Edward A. Freeman, published in Macmillan’s Magazine (London) in March 1870, shows how Dutchhas long been used “in the general sense in which we now use German”, including the language of the Netherlands as part of the Low-Dutch, i.e. Low-German, domain:

We may […] divide the Teutonic languages into two classes, the High-Dutch and the Low. The former is the tongue of Southern or Upper Germany, the high lands away from the sea and near the sources of the rivers. The latter is the tongue of Northern, Lower, or Nether Germany, the lands near the sea and at the mouths of the rivers, the speech of what we specially call the Netherlands or Low Countries, and of the great plain stretching away eastward till we get out of the reach of Teutonic and Aryan languages altogether.

2-: I have found an earlier instance of to go Dutch, used in a different sense, in an interview of Frank Carr, “one of St. Louis’ well-known bookmakers”, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri) of Sunday 22nd March 1903:

(Video) Dutch treat | meaning of Dutch treat

“It used to be that the bookmakers all did the business with their own money, but today it is different. […]
“When a man is conducting a business on somebody’s else money, he will take greater risks than the man who stands to lose his own money.
“For this reason, the books of today are run on a great deal smaller percentage than they used to be, and some of them will even go ‘Dutch’ to get the money. What I mean by going ‘Dutch,’ is to do business on less than an even percentage.”


Origin of ‘Dutch treat’ and ‘to go Dutch’? ›

The term stems from restaurant dining etiquette in the Western world, where each person pays for their meal. It is also called Dutch date, Dutch treat (the oldest form, a pejorative), and doing Dutch. A derivative is "sharing Dutch", having a joint ownership of luxury goods.

Where did the expression Dutch treat come from? ›

Dutch treat is attested as early as 1873 in a Missouri newspaper referring to drinkers pay their own bar tabs. The idiom going Dutch is recorded as early as 1914 and spread throughout the English-speaking world.

What is the difference between Going Dutch and Dutch treat? ›

Going Dutch describes a situation where each participant in an activity pays his own way. Dutch treat also describes a situation where each participant in an activity pays his own way, the idea being that a Dutch treat is in fact no treat at all.

What does the expression Dutch treat mean? ›

Dutch treat. noun. : a meal or other entertainment for which each person pays his or her own way.

What does it mean to go Dutch when you go out to dinner? ›

idiom. : to go to a movie, restaurant, etc., as a group with each person paying for his or her own ticket, food, etc. We went Dutch on dinner.

Why do we say double Dutch? ›

Etymology. From double (“twice, i.e. more than”) + Dutch. For sense 1: Dutch (which historically had a wider meaning) as a foreign language was not easily understood, so anything completely incomprehensible would be double Dutch, i.e. twice as hard as Dutch. Sense 2 expands on this meaning.

What is the classic Dutch saying? ›

5 Dutch expressions that express the Dutch way of life
  • Zuinigheid met vlijt (Thrift and diligence) ...
  • Meten is weten (Measuring things brings knowledge) ...
  • Oost west, thuis best (East, West, home is best) ...
  • Gezelligheid kent geen tijd (Cosiness knows no time) ...
  • Haastige spoed is zelden goed (Haste makes waste)
Mar 21, 2018

Do the Dutch call themselves Dutch? ›

Seeing as the Dutch refer to themselves as "nederlanders", there's no reason why the English can't use the equivalent 'netherlanders', in the same vein as 'greenlanders' or indeed 'new zealanders', but that's a different question.

Where is someone from if they say they are Dutch? ›

So where are Dutch people from? The Dutch people are from the Netherlands.

Is Dutch treat good for anxiety? ›

Dutch Treat is considered a strain that can boost the user's mood and help alleviate feelings of depression and anxiety and assist with managing pain. The main difference between sativa and indica strains is that sativa plants produce more energizing effects, whereas indica plants help with relaxation.

What is it called when everyone pays for their own meal? ›

Going Dutch(sometimes written with lower-case dutch) is a term that indicates that each person participating in a paid activity covers their own expenses, rather than any one person in the group defraying the cost for the entire group.

What is meant by a Dutch uncle? ›

Dutch uncle. A stern, candid critic or adviser, as in When I got in trouble with the teacher again, the principal talked to me like a Dutch uncle. This expression, often put as talk to one like a Dutch uncle, presumably alludes to the sternness and sobriety attributed to the Dutch. [ Early 1800s]

What does it mean when a woman goes Dutch? ›

Going Dutch means paying your own way.

The strictest definition of "going Dutch" is that you pay for what you order or consume on the date. So if you and your date go to a restaurant, you would each pay for whatever you ate.

What is considered rude in Dutch? ›

Basic Etiquette

It is considered rude to keep people waiting. It is polite to cover your mouth when yawning. It is rude to speak whilst chewing gum. Knock before entering a room if the door is shut.

Why do Dutch split the bill? ›

Holland has always had the custom of people being treated as equals. Therefore if two people go out for a meal and they both have an enjoyable experience they both pay half.

Why don't Dutch feed guests? ›

So, in their attempt to make society more egalitarian, more individualistic, less debt and status focused, and most importantly; less violent, northern societies supposedly stopped offering their guests food when they came over.

What does the phrase Dutch uncle mean? ›

Dutch uncle. A stern, candid critic or adviser, as in When I got in trouble with the teacher again, the principal talked to me like a Dutch uncle. This expression, often put as talk to one like a Dutch uncle, presumably alludes to the sternness and sobriety attributed to the Dutch. [ Early 1800s]

What does Dutch treat lunch mean? ›

Dutch treat in American English

noun. a meal or entertainment for which each person pays his or her own expenses.


1. Why Do We Say 'Going Dutch?'
(Culinary Lore)
2. Where did the phrase ''Going Dutch'' come from?
3. To Go Dutch | Ask Linda! | Idioms
(ITTT International TEFL & TESOL Training)
4. U.S. Idioms - Going Dutch
5. How the DUTCH Changed the English Language
6. dutch treat, go dutch
(ASL Dictionary)
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